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UNICEF to launch Caucasus peace programme after Russian school massacre

UNICEF to launch Caucasus peace programme after Russian school massacre

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is launching a new programme to foster peace and tolerance across the troubled North Caucasus by promoting much-needed dialogue between youngsters from different ethnic groups and religions following September’s school massacre in southern Russia.

“It is time to look to the future and try to heal age-old wounds,” said Carel de Rooy, UNICEF Representative in Russia.

“In the aftermath of Beslan, we fear that things will get worse unless we work with children and young people to build tolerance and understanding,” he added of the town in the Russian Federation’s republic of North Ossetia, where 338 people were killed and 747 injured in a hostage taking linked to separatists in the nearby republic of Chechnya.

“It seems fitting, after the tragic events in Beslan, that schools should be at the heart of efforts to build peace and reconciliation,” he said.

The programme will begin in January with a study tour to existing peace education programmes supported by UNICEF, and will include art competitions, sports contests, youth discussions, exchange visits and summer camps for children and young people from different ethnic groups and religions.

It is scheduled to run initially until December 2005 and will require $500,000.

UNICEF provided medical supplies to the survivors within hours of the siege at School Number One in Beslan. It has provided education materials for the remaining schools in the town to make them more welcoming for children. It is also supporting psychological counselling for survivors, their families and other affected children in the town.